Tuskegee, Alabama

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  • Technical Assistance Program

    Local Foods, Local Places An Action Plan for Tuskegee, Alabama

    October 7, 2015

  • Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Workshop

    Action Plan Tuskegee, Alabama 2

    Community Story The City of Tuskegee, Alabama (population 9,865) is the County seat of rural Macon County (population 20,000). Sitting halfway between Montgomery and Columbus along US Highway 80, Tuskegee is in the eastern edge of the Alabama Black Belt: a large region of the Southeast shaped by an agricultural economy that was historically dominated by cotton and has the sociocultural and economic legacy of African-American slavery. Today, Tuskegee is 98% African-American, while Macon County is 86%. The City is proud to be the home of Tuskegee University (TU), a historically black college founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, which has produced great thought leaders and innovators such as George Washington Carver. Macon County is home to the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Museum, the Tuskegee National Forest, and Moton Field, the former training base of the Tuskegee Airmen. The City and Countys histories are intertwined with agricultural traditions, education, innovation, self-reliance, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with the legacy of slavery and later the Civil Rights Movement. Independence, resiliency, and sustainability are part of Tuskegees culture, and yet the City and County are largely rural, and characterized by population decline, economic hardship, and poverty. Macon is one of two counties in the state of Alabama listed for five consecutive years as severely distressed, with many families in need of basic necessities such as healthy food, health care, and economic opportunities.

    In July 2014, a group of community leaders working with distressed communities partnered with the City of Tuskegee, the principle land grant universities of the region, and other partners in Macon and Lee counties to submit an application for technical assistance from the federal Local Foods, Local Places program1. The community partners, listed in Figure 1 expressed their desire to pursue implementation of a plan for economic development and food security through downtown revitalization and regional marketing. They called their initiative Made in Macon, Homegrown in Tuskegee, which expressed a strong desire to promote local foods, enhance the downtown Farmers Market and main streets, and extend access to local healthy foods for all in Tuskegee, Alabama and the surrounding region.

    1 http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/announcement_-_local_foods_local_places_2014_final.pdf http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/sp-local-foods-local-places.html

    LFLP APPLICATION PARTNERS

    Mobile Studio Auburn University Tuskegee---Macon County

    Community Development Corporation (TMCCDC)

    Tuskegee University, Carver Integrative Sustainability Center (CISC)

    Food Bank of East Alabama (FBEA) Macon County Famers Market,

    Tuskegee (MCFM) Auburn University Food Systems

    Institute, and College of Human Sciences, Nutrition and College of Agriculture, Agriculture Economics and Rural Sociology

    COMMUNITY PARTNERS

    Tuskegee Youth Safe Haven (TYSF) Macon County Public Schools,

    School Gardens Program Tuskegee Farmers Conference (TFC) The Ridge Interpretive Center,

    Warrior Stand, Alabama (RIC) Shiloh Community Restoration

    Foundation, Notasulga, Alabama (SCRF)

    Macon County Ministers Council (MCMC)

    Tuskegee Main Street Organization (TMSO)

    Tuskegee Housing Authority Tuskegee United Leadership and

    Innovation Program (TULIP) National Park Service (NPS)

    Key Initiative Partners

    Figure 1 - Key Initiative Partners (see Appendix C for a list of workshop attendees).

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/announcement_-_local_foods_local_places_2014_final.pdfhttp://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/sp-local-foods-local-places.html

  • Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Workshop

    Action Plan Tuskegee, Alabama 3

    The application was endorsed by the Tuskegee City Council, Mayor Johnny Ford, and the Macon County Commission.

    Macon County Alabama is a USDA-designated StrikeForce county at the eastern edge of the Alabama Black Belt, and is included in both the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authoritys jurisdiction. The application for technical assistance clearly articulated that the community had many of the key ingredients for both collaboration and success, and had a real need. The application requested technical and financial resources to support the countys vision of becoming a local leader in equal access to fresh local foods, entrepreneurial opportunities, and a vibrant downtown. They were awarded LFLP technical assistance in the fall of 2015 and began the process thereafter. The remainder of this report documents the engagement process, workshop activities, and the action plan for next steps.

    Figure 2 Daniel, Ervin and Jason In conversation outside of the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center (Credit: Alan Steinbeck)

    Macon County Food Assessment and the Moveable Feast Mobile Studio is a traveling, interdisciplinary arts and design studio that studies, interprets, and transforms landscapes with communities in Alabama and beyond. It is co-founded and directed by Jocelyn Zanzot and Daniel Neil. The studio works, in collaboration and co-creation with diverse communities, towards optimum health and creative place making. Working at multiple scales, the studio creates new models of civic engagement, enhances centers of creative economy, and builds new public landscapes of civic health and delight.

    Mobile Studio collaborated on the 2014 Food Security Assessment for Macon County with colleagues in Rural Sociology, Agricultural Economics and Nutrition at Auburn University, as well as the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Healthcare. The objectives were to better understand the stories behind the statistics of food security in Macon County, and to develop a more robust assessment tool that can help strengthen existing food security networks. One of the immediate goals of the research is to use the findings to inform regional, statewide and national food policy councils, as well as research and action oriented initiatives. A longer-term goal is to plan and design solutions that improve local food system infrastructure. The Mobile Studio itself has become a new model for interdisciplinary, community-centered partnership for enhancing local food systems.

  • Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Workshop

    Action Plan Tuskegee, Alabama 4

    Engagement Process The technical assistance engagement process conducted for LFLP has three phases, illustrated in Figure 3 below. The assessment phase consisted of three preparation conference calls with the workshop planning committee that worked to articulate the workshop goal and agenda, logistics and stakeholder invitation lists. The Convening phase included the efforts keystone event: a two-day workshop held in the community. The next steps phase included a series of three follow-up conference calls, as well as process-reporting and documentation.

    CoordinationResearchMappingCase StudiesDiscuss participation

    Assess

    Community tourAffirm community visionEstablish goalsAssess issues/opportunities Identify actions to achieve

    community goals

    ConveneAction PlanFollow up coordinationMobilize resources

    Next Steps

    Figure 3 Technical Assistance Process Diagram

    The workshop was held May 5-6, 2015 at the Tuskegee Housing Authority (THA) Life Development Center (LDC). Federal agencies participating in the workshop included United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The workshop was well attended by all community partners listed in Figure 1 and Appendix C of this report.

  • Local Foods, Local Places Technical Assistance Workshop

    Action Plan Tuskegee, Alabama 5

    The Community Tour The workshop began on the afternoon of May 5th, with a community tour of key sites, projects and partners in Tuskegee. It began at the historic court square downtown and involved a discussion of all the revitalization efforts being made to support main street businesses, historic facades, and events such as the George Washington Carver Commemorative Festival. Lawrence Tony Haygood of the TMCCDC spoke of their numerous projects and of the work of Tuskegee Main Street. The next stop included the Macon County Farmers Market just a few blocks north of Downtown, which is a sturdy and attractive permanent structure built on City land with USDA funds. Adjacent to the Farmers Market pavilion is a community garden, founded and operated by the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center (CISC) and students of the University. The tour continued to the Tuskegee University Carver Integrative Sustainability Center, which houses the USDA Rural Development and Extension staff. The tour included a visit to the offices of the Tuskegee-Macon County Community Development Corporation (TMCCDC) and the Tuskegee Youth Safe Haven. It concluded with a stop at the former daycare center which was donated by the Tuskegee Housing Authority to the Macon County Ministers Council (MCMC). The building currently houses the Ministers Council food pantry, which distributes food monthly over 150 families in need, and is slated for renovation to become a new